Crazy Writer Girl

by melissakiefer

Excerpt from: The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

The writer’s psychology is by its very nature one of extreme duality. The writer labors in isolation, yet all the intensive, lonely work is the service of communicating, is an attempt to reach another person…….Chances are you want to write because you are a haunted individual, or a bothered individual, because the world does not sit right with you or you in it. Chances are you have a deep connection to books because at some point you discovered that they were the one truly safe place to discover and explore feelings that are banished from the dinner table, the cocktail party, the golf foursome, the bridge game. Because the writers who mattered to you have dared to say I am a sick man. And because within the world of books there is no censure. In discovering books, you became free to explore the full range of human motives, desires, secrets, and lies. All my life, people have scolded me for having an excess of feeling, saying that I was too sensitive—as if one could be in danger from feeling too much instead of too little.

This week I convinced myself I was a manic-depressive-bipolar-paranoid-schizophrenic. If you know both sides of me, you know I can be energetic, enthusiastic, charismatic, and bold. You also know I might spiral into shutdown mode. The timid worried hermit. Clammy. Hot-cold. Insecure and obsessive. Extreme. I keep winding myself up like a kid in a swing. Get dizzy. Wind myself up again. I will make myself crazy over imagined things that feel too real. My mind replays expressions, the tones of voices, the spoken words. I’ll take seven scalding baths and still not feel comfortable with myself. Inside-outside-naked-blanket. Tremble. Squirm. Tingle. Will my mind/body to still. And I want to claw and scratch my skin off. Desperate to express. Desperate for purpose. Waiting. Just winding up the swing.Spiraling. Again. Again.

An interesting realization occurred to me: At times I will stress, panic, and worry no matter what I’m doing. I will make any task into more than what is required. And avoiding it all and staying at home will trigger panic about doing nothing with my life. These freak-outs wreak havoc on my body, and being sane enough to know I’m not well is difficult. To recognize this duality is more disturbing than comforting. I value authenticity and want to be real—in my writing and in my personality. I require and crave genuine people in my life yet know I put on a daily mask to face the world. So, I’m either mentally ill…or a writer. Perhaps I am both.

I’m often asked how I got over my “shyness.” Well, whatever you call it, whatever holds you back, whatever thorn is in your flesh…you fake it. You push through the problem–big or little, temporary or terminal. You make yourself do something. Anything. You tell it on your bruised knees. With shaking hands and shaky voice. Mind spinning. Body drenched in sweat. You get up. You get out of bed. You get on with the day. You won’t feel great, but you’ll feel better. You keep trying. 

I keep trying.    

Paint canvas. Splash, slap color. Mod podge the shit out of something. Make art that has as many layers as you’re made of. Cut. Paste. Make arrangements that scream poetry and passion. Read a book. Amalgamate old and new. Light a candle. Cook food. Nourish. Turn up the music and make the demons go away. Begin. Feel too much. Venture out. See it all. These places. It doesn’t matter which places. Make them a part of your soul, your memory–your crazy beautiful memory.